War hero Israel Hendley buried in an out-of-the-way graveyard

Major Israel Hendley’s sword and scabbard are part of the Ray County Museum collection. (Submitted photo)

Major Israel Hendley’s sword and scabbard are part of the Ray County Museum collection. (Submitted photo)

By Linda Emley

In Richmond, there is a small family cemetery that lies in the middle of West Lexington Street. It’s the Martin Family Cemetery and was originally part of the William Martin farm.

There are four tombstones in this cemetery, but there are several other people buried there that don’t have grave markers. The four that are listed are Judge William B. Martin, who died in 1856 when he was 75 years old; 36-year-old Melinda Martin, who died in 1870; 16-year-old Israella Hendley, who died in 1862; and Israel Hendley, who died in 1847.

William Martin moved to Ray County in 1815 and was a big part of our early history. His daughter Pernita married Israel Hendley. Israel is buried in this Martin Family Cemetery, but this is actually the second place he was buried.

Israel and Pernita had five chidren –George Washington Hendley, Mary Jane Ewing, John Hendley, Malnor Hendley and Israella Hendley. Jan. 25, 1847, Israel Hendley was killed at the First Battle of Moro during the Taos Revolt in the Mexican-American War. He was the only U.S. Soldier killed; 25 Mexicans were killed.

Israel was originally buried there, but later that spring his body was moved to the Martin Cemetery in Richmond. I’ve heard that Isreal’s funeral in Richmond was one of the biggest funerals ever held here.

One eyewitness recalled Israel’s final day on earth. “Capt. Hendley was shot in the groin by a large escopet ball, the ball striking the inside of his Sabre scabbard, and glancing downward, severed the artery in the thigh. We picked him up, carried him about 30 steps and laid him down. He breathed but once and was dead. John Hudgens, Private Co. A., Price’s 2nd Mo. Cavalry.”

Every time I give a tour at the Ray County Museum, I tell Israel Hendley’s story because we have the sword that he was holding when he died. I always point out the dent in his scabbard where the cannon ball struck before it bounced off and cut the artery in his leg.

This sword and scabbard are a very valuable piece of history. I’ve heard stories about how lucky we are to have it because there were several other museums that wanted it. The legend is that it was under the bed of his great-great-granddaughter and she’s the one that wanted us to have it. Her name was Beverly Chaffee. We don’t know much about her, other than she lived in Overland Park, Kan., and lived long enough to be classified as an elderly lady.

While researching this story, I found an old file about Isreal Hendley that had a very interesting letter from the Kansas City Museum. It’s dated Jan. 4, 1994.

“Dear Mr. Boggs, I received your note with additional information on Hendley, the family and reference to the sword/sabre. I wish I could say that it helped me locate this object in our collection but it did not. I searched inventory and object records and just did not find the family names you provided. I guess what I’m trying to say is that according to the records available to me, I don’t believe we have the sword.”

This letter makes me think there maybe is some truth to the story about Beverly Chaffee having Israel’s sword nicely tucked away under her bed just waiting to be sent to the Ray County Museum.

Israel Hendley was a man but not a saint. I was talking to a lady who spent many years working on Ray County court records and she found some interesting stories about our man Israel.

He was taken to trial by a local man because he was spending too much time with this gent’s wife. The trial was pretty explicit and told about Capt. Hendley climbing out a window when the man of the house came home early.

Our 1881 Ray County History book gives a few details about Hendley. Page 274 tells about the Florida Wars. “In the Florida war, in the year 1837, the Missouri “spies,” a company made up chiefly of recruits from Ray County, commanded by Capt. John Sconce, Israel R. Hendly, first lieutenant, did good service in the swamps and everglades of Florida.”

Page 276 talks about Hendley’s role in the Mormon War. In the fall of 1838, the armed conflict caused great excitement in Ray County.

“Lilburn W. Boggs, who was then governor of Missouri, issued a proclamation and ordered Major-General David R. Atchison to call out the militia of his division, in order to put down the insurgents and enforce the laws. General Atchison called out a part of the first brigade of Missouri state militia, under the command of General Alexander W. Doniphan, who proceeded at once to the seat of war. There were called out in this expedition from Ray County four companies of militia, commanded respectively by Captains Samuel Bogart, Israel R. Hendley, Nehemiah Odell, and John Sconce. The militia were placed under the command of General John B. Clark.”  

Page 278 gives the final chapter in Hendley’s military career. “In 1846, a company of volunteers was recruited from Ray County for the Mexican War. This company was mustered into the service Aug. 1, 1846 as company G, in the battalion of Missouri mounted riflemen, commanded by Lieut. Col. David Willock, (Col. Sterling Price’s regiment) called into the service of the United States by President James K. Polk, under the act of congress, approved May 13, 1846. Israel R. Hendley was elected captain of company G; William M. Jacobs, first lieutenant; John W. Martin, second lieutenant, and William P. George, third lieutenant. This battalion was a part of Col. Sterling Price’s regiment, and under the command of Kearney and Doniphan, won laurels of which the country is justly proud. 

“Capt. Israel R. Hendley, who had proved himself a gallant officer, fell at Moro, New Mexico, Jan. 25, 1847, and was succeeded in command of company G by Capt. William M. Jacobs, who was a brave and efficient officer, and was greatly endeared to his gallant company. Company G was mustered into the United States service Aug. 1, 1846. It was a splendid company, well equipped, thoroughly disciplined, and efficient in every respect. It performed excellent service during the war, and was honorably discharged at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., on the 17th day of September, 1847. A portion of this company accompanied Doniphan’s regiment, so famous for its march to Santa Fe, Chihuahua, Monterey and the Gulf, and for the battles of Bracito and Sacramento. The march of the regiment is known as Doniphan’s expedition.”

There are many more interesting stories about Capt. Israel Hendley. There is no way we can share them all in one article. If you would like to look over some of his military records or other articles, please come to the museum and we will be glad to show you his file. Who knows what other stories we might find about this man who had many adventures.

In 1994, the Martin Cemetery was restored and a rock wall was built around it to help protect it for future generations. Richmond Mayor Monroe Evert issued a proclamation on the 14th day of May and several Hendley and Martin family members were present for this event.

Twenty years later, this wall could use a little face lift. If anyone would like to have a spring project, I’ll be glad to help. This little spot in the middle of Lexington Street is a very special piece of our history that we need to preserve to keep Israel’s story alive.

The Ray County Museum sits on part of the original farm of William Martin, so I would like to find out more about him. As many of you know, my maiden name is Martin, but I’m not related to the William Martin family.

My grandfather, Ola Landon Martin, was born in south Missouri and movedhere in 1926 or ‘27 to help build the road between Richmond and Excelsior Springs. I often think about how things might be different if my Papa Martin had taken a job in some other county. I’m glad he chose Ray County and once again I can say, “Everything happens for a reason.”

Have a story for Linda? You can write her at or see her at the museum.


You must be logged in to post a comment Login